Sukhothai Historical Park
Founded in the thirteenth century, Sukhothai was the first independent territory in the history of Thailand, the base from which was formed the Kingdom of Siam in the following centuries. In ancient times the alluvial valley of the Chao Phaya River was divided into several small principalities and kingdoms, all vassals of the powerful Khmer Empire. In 1238 the Prince Pho Khun Bang Klang Thao declared its independence from the Khmer Empire, settling in Sukhothai, taking the name of Sri Indraditya and founding the Sukhothai Kingdom, which means Dawn of Happiness. The kingdom of Sri Indraditya was initially limited to Sukhothai and the nearby town of Si Satchanalai, it was his successor, and third son, Ram Khamhaeng the Great who, between 1279 and 1299, formed a vast empire that extended from present Vientiane, at Nord, to Nakhon Si Thammarat, at South. During the long reign of Ram Khamhaeng, forty years, the area through a period of prosperity and cultural and religious development. The biggest innovation made by King Ram Khamhaeng concerns the creation of a unified system of writing in 1283, through the merger of the various alphabets Khmer, the first example of Thai written language, the form still used today. Buddhism gradually spread among the people, giving the inspiration for the birth of the classic forms of Thai religious architecture. The statues of the Buddha sculpted during the Sukhothai period are the cultural treasures that we find today in many Thai temples. During the reign of one of his successors, King Loei Thai, most of the territories were lost. The seven successive sovereigns failed to win them back, showing a gradual decline of Kingdom, mainly due to the growth of the neighboring Ayutthaya Kingdom. In 1378 King Boromaraja I, the sovereign of Ayutthaya, conquered the city of Sukhothai, making it a vassal state. In 1438 the Sukhothai Kingdomwas completely absorbed by Ayutthaya Kingdom. The ruins of Sukhothai can be admired in its Historical Park, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in December 12, 1991, together with the nearby parks of Kampheng Phet and Si Satchanalai. Sukhothai Historical Park is 12 km from the centre of New Sukhothai, along the highway leading to Tak, 450 km north of Bangkok. Most historical artefacts, including the Royal Palace and 21 temples, are located within the ancient city walls, a long rectangle about 1,810 meters east-west and 1,400 meters on the north-south. The city walls, built of brick, have bastions for defence, and are surrounded by a moat, outside of which there are more temples and palaces, which are also part of the park. Temples and palaces were built in the architectural style of Sukhothai, with obvious influences from styles Khmer, Sinhalese and Mon. The style of Sukhothai has subsequently influenced most of Siamese architecture in later centuries. The ruins of the royal palaces, Buddhist temples, the city gates, walls, ditches, dams, ponds, lakes with their channels are well preserved, supported by a large restoration work, organized by the Department of Fine Arts of Thailand in cooperation with UNESCO. Sukhothai Historical Park Office, within the walls, provides assistance to visitors, and maintains models of historical buildings and the plan of ancient Sukhothai.
Admission & open hours: open daily from 08:30 to 18:00. The ticket costs 150 THB and permit access to all historical artefacts. Free maps of the Park are available at the ticket office.
Getting around Park: the central area of Park, inside the walls, can be explored on foot. A small electric train runs around the park, starting from the entrance and a ticket 50 THB per person. One option to get around is to rent a bike, it costs about 60-80 THB per day. For the temples and palaces outside the walls you can easily use the economic Tuk Tuk or songthaew.Read More
- Address: Mueang Kao, Mueang Sukhothai District
- Telephone: +66 5569 7310
- Website: whc.unesco.org
Sukhothai Historical Park Highlights
Wat Maha That, which means Temple of the Great Relic, is at the center of the ancient Sukhothai, at west of the Royal Palace, in the usual area, bounded by a moat, and was the Royal sanctuary in the complex of Royal residence. Wat Maha That is one of the oldest and most important temples of Thailand, certainly the biggest and most beautiful of the old Sukhothai. The temple was built by Sri Indraditya, the first King of Sukhothai, during the 13th century, with a splendor that shows how important it was as a religious centre for the people of Sukhothai. Its structures, in laterite and brick, were extended over several centuries, with different architectural styles, including Lanna, Sinhalese, Sukhothai and Mon Haripunchai. Its main Chedi, or Stupa, was built in 1345 to preserve some sacred Relics of the Buddha. The chedi is topped with a finial in the shape of lotus bud, characteristic of Sukhothai style, and is built on a base decorated with two large sculptures of Buddha. The square-shaped base also contains eight other chedis smaller, four, those corners, are in Mon Haripunchai style, four have Khmer architectural influences. The niches of these smaller chedi contain 28 Buddha images and stucco sculptures depicting the life of Buddha. The Viharn, the main hall of worship in the temple, stood in front of the chedi, now of this have remained the foundation and a few rows of pillars. In ancient times the Viharn contained a bronze image of the Buddha in the position Bhumisparsha Mudra, also known as Subduing Mara. The sacred image was installed in Viharn, and designed, by King Lithai in 1362. During the reign of King Rama I, in the late 18th century, the image was moved to Wat Suthat Bangkok, and has since been named Phra Sri Sakaya Muni.Read More
Wat Phra Phai Luang is located near the Sanluang gate, 500 meter outside of the old walled Sukhothai. Temple is one of the oldest of the Sukhothai Historical Park and the most important after Wat Mahathat. It dates back to a period between the late 12th century and early 13th century, at least a century before the foundation of Sukhothai Kingdom. It is believed that temple was built as a sanctuary Khmer-Hindu during the reign of Jayavarman VII, King of Angkor, when the area of Sukhothai was an outpost of the Khmer Empire. It was located in the centre of outpost and was the most important sanctuary Khmer of that time. The sanctuary was originally dedicated to Vishnu, later, in the Sukhothai era, it was converted into a Theravada Buddhist temple. The temple is located on a square surface surrounded by a moat, along 600 meters. Its structures were built at different times, with different architectural styles, Khmer, Sukhothai and Ayutthaya. Three prangs Khmer-style are the oldest structures, of which only the north is still intact, the other two have collapsed. The prang intact is decorated with beautiful stucco relieves of Hindu representations and scenes from the life of Buddha, similar to those of the Khmer temples of Angkor. Faced with prangs is the main Viharn of sanctuary, of this, and of the smaller chedis around him, just the basics remain. One hall contains the statues of Buddha in four positions: sitting, lying, standing and while walking. At west of prangs is what remains of Phra Ubosot, the ordering hall of the temple, surrounded by sema stones, that mark the sacred area. On a pedestal in the back of the Ubosot are two beautiful Buddha images in the Mudra of Calling the Earth to Witness, a classic symbolic Buddhist gesture.Read More
Wat Si Chum is located outside Sanluang Gate, the north gate of acient walled city, about 1,000 meters west of the gate and 500 meters after the Wat Phra Phai Luang. The temple dates back to the 13th century and is also known as the Temple of the Bodhi Tree. Bodhi trees are often found in many Thai temples, because it was exactly under a Bodhi tree that Buddha attained his enlightenment at the end of his meditation. Wat Si Chum includes a Mondop and Viharn. The Mondop, the main sanctuary of the temple, is in fair condition conservation, has lost only the particular roof shaped like a pyramid, of the Viharn, the Assembly Hall, there are only the base and a few rows of columns. The Mondop is a large building in cubic structure with a square plan that preserves inside a huge Buddha image, named Phra Achana, in the cross-legged position known as Bhumisparsha Mudra, or as Subduing Mara. The statue occupies the total space of the interior of Mondop, and is visible from the outside through an opening decreasing in size in the centre of the structure. The image is built of brick and covered with stucco, measuring 15 meters high and 11 meters from knee to knee, and is the largest image of the Buddha, in this position, in Sukhothai. The right hand of Phra Buddha Achana is covered with gold leaf, placed here by devout Buddhists who come to pray the holy image, known among the faithful as well as Phra Pood Dai, which means the Speaking Buddha. The image was restored by the Department of Fine Arts Thai in 1950.Read More
Wat Sa Si is located a few hundred meters north west of Wat Mahathat, on a small island surrounded by a lake, in the centre of the ancient walled city. Its privileged position makes it one of the most beautiful monuments of the Sukhothai Historical Park. A bridge connects the island with the main area of Park. The small temple, which dates from the late 14th century, consists of a main chedi, a chedi smaller, a Viharn and one Phra Ubosot. The main bell-shaped chedi, Singhalese-style, is well preserved and probably was built to preserve the ashes of Praya Li Thai, the fifth King of the Kingdom of Sukhothai. In front of the main chedi is the Viharn, the hall of worship and assembly of the temple, of which remain few ruins, the base and a few rows of pillars. In the back of the ruins there is a large stone image of Buddha in the position of Bhumisparsha Mudra, also known Subduing Mara. The ruins of Phra Ubosot, its base and pillars, are located to the east of the island, a little away from the Viharn.Read More
Wat Sri Sawai, also known as Wat Sri Savaya, is located a few hundred meters southwest of Wat Mahathat, near the Namo gate within the walled part of the ancient Sukhothai. The temple is one of the oldest in Sukhothai, built by the Khmer in the late 12th century or early 13th century, before the foundation of the Kingdom of Sukhothai. The temple was originally built as a sanctuary dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, and consisted of three prangs Khmer-style surrounded by a laterite wall with a large pond inside it. Later the sanctuary was turned into a Theravada Buddhist temple with the addition of two Viharns. The three prangs Khmer are in excellent condition. The central, the largest, is 15 meters high, the two at sides are a bit smaller, all covered with white stucco. The prangs are decorated with stucco sculptures of several mythological creatures, like the heads of snakes Naga, Makaras, a sea creature, and Kala, another mythological monster often portrayed in the temples of Angkor, Siam Reap in Cambodia. The main Viharn of temple, the hall of worship, is located in front of the central prang, and is in excellent condition. Of the smallest Viharn little remains, only the base and a few pillars.Read More
Wat Tra Phang Ngoen is a small temple located in the central area of the old walled city, a few hundred meters west of Wat Mahathat. The temple was built during the 14th century in front of a small lake; its name in fact means the Temple of Silver Lake. Wat Tra Phang Ngoen consisted of a main chedi, Sukhothai-style, a Viharn, a Phra Ubosot and a chedi smaller. The chedi is in fairly good state of preservation; the Viharn and Ubosot have collapsed almost entirely, and of these remain only the foundations and some columns of laterite. The main chedi is topped with a finial in the shape of lotus bud, similar to the chedi of the nearby Wat Mahathat, under the lotus there are niches, one on each side, that contain standing and walking images of the Buddha. In front of the main chedi is the remains of Viharn, in the back of the structure is a large stucco Buddha image, in the cross-legged position known as Bhumisparsha Mudra, or as Subduing Mara.Read More
Wat Sorasak is a small temple in the ancient walled city, near the Sanluang gate. The temple consists of a chedi and a Viharn. The chedi is in good condition, was restored in 1980 by the Thai Fine Arts Department, of the Viharn remain only a few ruins, the basic and some of pillars. According to an inscription stone found in the temple, now preserved in the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum, Wat Sorasak was built in 1412 and takes its name from the manufacturer, Nai Intha Sorasak. The chedi is a classic example of a chedi surrounded by elephants, typical of the Sukhothai period, similar chedis can be found in Sukhothai, Si Satchanalai and Kamphaeng Phet. The bell-shaped chedi stands on a square brick from which protrude 24 elephants seem to bear the structure of the chedi on their shoulders. Both the chedi and elephants are of brick covered with stucco.Read More
The complex of the Royal Palace is located in the heart of old Sukothai. The complex covers an area of about 160,000 square meters, completely surrounded by a moat of water. The site includes the Noen Phrasat, the Royal residence, and the Wat Mahathat, the Royal sanctuary and the the largest temple of Sukhothai. The Royal Palace houses a stone engraved by King Ram Khamhaeng the Great. The stone was found by King Mongkut, Rama IV, in the nineteenth century, along with a portion of the stone throne known as Manangkhasila Asana, which is now kept at the Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok.Read More
The Ramkhamhaeng National Museum is located close to Kamphaeng Hack gate, in the walled city of Old Sukhothai. Under the supervision of the Department of Fine Arts of Thailand, the museum is a great introduction to the arts and artefacts of Sukhothai and its cities enslaved. Inside it are preserved ancient remnants, artefacts, art objects and antiques collected or excavated in the archaeological sites of old Sukhothai and surrounding areas. Within the large building were exposed many statues Khmer, Buddha images of Sukhothai period, ancient stone with inscriptions, ceramics Sawankhalok and prehistoric artefacts found in the area. The period represented ranges from pre-history of the Sukhothai area and throughout the kingdoms of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya; these exhibits give a vivid display of lifestyle, customs, traditions, cultural habits and art styles during the various periods. Entrance: the museum opens daily from 09:00 to 16:00.Read More
Getting there: Park is located 12 Km from Sukhothai, along Highway 12, easily reached by taxi or the more economic songthaew, costs around 60 THB per way. Sukhothai can be reached by plane, bus or car, private or rented. Currently only Bangkok Airways operates flights to Sukhothai Airport, with the connections to Bangkok Savarnabhumi Airport, with two flights per day, it costs about 1.800 THB each way, and Koh Samui. Busses to Sukhothai from Bangkok leave from the Northern Mo Chit Terminal, with hourly departures, the trip takes about 7 hours and the ticket costs from 250 to 380 THB, depending on the class. Sukhothai has good bus connections with all cities in northern Thailand.
Path Bangkok - Sukhothai - Historical Park: from Bangkok follow one of the many Expressway or Tollway towards North, choose the most suitable for your location in the capital as the Sri Rat Expressway and Utra Phimuk Tollway if you are in the center or Thanon Kanchanaphisek if you are at Savarnabhumi Airport, all converge in the Highway 32, Phahonyothin Road, that leading to Si Ayutthaya, about 78 km in total. From Si Ayutthaya continue to follow Phahonyothin Road, also referred as Asian Highway AH2 or AH1, until Tak, passing by Nakhon Sawan and Kamphaeng Phet, about 340 km. Reached Tak turn right on Highway 12 that lead to Sukhothai, the Park is located on this road after about 68 Km, 12 before Sukhothai.
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